Played backwards, the title track of Slayer’s second album, Hell Awaits, hisses: “Join us, join us, join us…” Heavy metal is, of course, full of such stories, a few of them true, most of them the accusations of Christian-right groups intent on saving souls. Which, given Rob Zombie’s day job as Satan’s muse, makes The Lords Of Salem his most personal film to date...
It revolves around that horror staple, the late-night radio DJ. In this case her name is Heidi (Sheri Moon Zombie – who else?) and she’s a recovering addict who broadcasts out of Salem, Massachusetts.
A wooden box arrives at the station, sent by ‘The Lords’. The record inside is a funereal dirge that triggers hazy images in her head. Weird shit starts to happen. Heidi plays the record on air. The weird shit multiplies exponentially.
Zombie’s love of horror has never been in question, but the same can’t be said for his credibility as a filmmaker.
Always divisive, his movies, much like his music, sample from the genre, with the likes of House Of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects and his Halloween remakes winning fans and taking flak in equal measure.
The Lords Of Salem sees Zombie again replicate the soft-edged, lived-in visuals of the ’70s movies he holds so dear, though the obvious inspiration is Rosemary’s Baby – Mrs. Zombie is assailed by interfering neighbours and satanic panic, while Mr. Zombie for once favours story over intensity and (mishandled) suspense over violence.
Dragged to hell by awful dialogue (“cunty witches…”), dodgy effects and too many goats, The Lords Of Salem is saved from total ignominy by strains of Bach and The Velvet Underground, not to mention the odd striking scene.
Most notable is the third-act reveal of what’s hidden behind a neighbour’s door. almost Kubrickian in its control and grandiosity, it’s the best two minutes you’ll see in a horror film this year.
That it’s followed by the worst two minutes says it all.
Occasionally potent but mostly risible, this tale of the occult sees Rob Zombie cast a weak spell. Disappointing.